(From Nationality, November 13, 1915)
Mitchel, in the last year of his life, was elected a member of the English Parliament by Tipperary – the first Sinn Féin election. For Mitchel pledged himself never to set his foot in the English Parliament, and by his example to lead the people of Ireland to see that the only safety they had in connection with that institution was in electing representatives who would refuse to attend it, and attend instead to Ireland’s business at home. But Mitchel did once draw up a petition to the English Parliament – a petition which probably not a dozen of the present generation have ever read, and which forms a perfect model for all petitions to that Parliament from Irishmen. In 1848 the Young Irelanders determined on formally demanding from England, before they repudiated the connection altogether, Repeal of the Union. Mitchel and Meagher were asked to draw up the formal petitions. Meagher’s was the petition agreed upon. This was Mitchel’s: –
TO THE HONOURABLE THE COMMONS OF ENGLAND IN PARLIAMENT ASSEMBLED
The Petition of the undersigned Irishmen humbly sheweth – that every people should mind their own business, and are best fitted to mind their own business; and that the people of Ireland, of whom your petitioners are a few, are quite willing and well fitted to mind theirs.
That since the 1st of January, 1801, Ireland, the native land of your petitioners, has been, to its sorrow, degradation, and misery, “incorporated” with the British Empire.
That this incorporation was legally effected by a certain grievous act of your Honourable House, called “an act for the Union of Great Britain and Ireland”; and in reality by the systems of assassinage, incendiarism, and subornation, which your honourable House has always sanctioned as its means for the extension of English dominion.
That since the incorporation aforesaid, in the name of the act aforesaid, and by means of armed troops, regular and of police, spies, placemen, and others (the means which your honourable House has always approved for the sustentation of English dominion), divers persons, calling themselves successively, the ‘Imperial Government,’ have, to the utmost of their ability, and under the sanction of your honourable House, abused the native land of your petitioners for the sole benefit of the English, and the complete misery of the Irish people.
That the accumulated evil-doing of those persons aforesaid has at length necessarily inflicted upon the native land of your petitioners famine and pestilence unprecedented in the world.
That your petitioners are ignorant of and indifferent about the intentions of these divers persons aforesaid, forasmuch as they are all of necessity incompetent to govern the native land of your petitioners, which really needs to be governed; and forasmuch as those of them whose intentions were said to be worst did least ill to your petitioners’ country, fearing to interfere in the affairs of your petitioners’ fellow-countrymen where they could avoid such interference, and being opposed tooth and nail by the majority of your petitioners’ fellow-countrymen, on account of their reported intentions, whether their acts were bad or worse; and those of them whose intentions were said to be best did most harm, inasmuch as, at various times, saying they would ‘lay the foundation of most just systems in,’ ‘better the conditions,’ ‘improve the lot,’ ‘extend the happiness,’ and the like, of your petitioners’ native country, they were permitted by your petitioners’ simple fellow-countrymen to make divers cruel experiments for such purposes.
That the incorporation aforesaid of your petitioners’ native country into the British Empire has been necessarily followed by the incorporation of Irish labour into the English capitalist, the incorporation of Irish wealth into the English Treasury, the incorporation of Irish blood in the English armies, the incorporation of the Irish flag into the English jack, and the incorporation of Irish food into English stomachs, all or any of which incorporations would not be submitted to by any other people in the world, and are so cruel and humiliating to your petitioners that your honourable House may well be, since you can safely be, surprised at our inhuman patience and our unchristian resignation.
That, however, self-preservation is a severe necessity. That of the natives of your petitioners’ country not more than one million are yet starved. And that, whereas one John Russell, a grave member of your honourable house, having rashly said to the remainder of your petitioners’ fellow-countrymen (they being now in a state of direst famine, caused by the English having devoured their food), ‘Help yourselves, and God will help you,’ your petitioners are grievously afraid their fellow-countrymen will hearken to the advice of the Honourable John Russell aforesaid, and help themselves, whether your honourable House will it or no, to their own food, and their own country, in future.
Wherefore your petitioners, being peaceable men, anxious to save the lives of millions of their fellow-countrymen by obtaining for them the eating of their own produce, ‘peaceably, legally, morally and constitutionally,’ do beseech your honourable House to repeal the aforesaid act of ‘incorporation,’ called an ‘Act for the Union of Great Britain and Ireland,’ in order that, without offence to your honourable House, your petitioners’ fellow-countrymen may be enabled to drive the armies of your honourable House, the laws, and other grievous impositions of your honourable House, the police, English accent, Manchester clothes, ‘felon flag,’ and all things English, off the face of their own country into the sea – an event, for which the judgment of Heaven, the incompetency and the crimes of men, are daily preparing the nations of Europe.
And your petitioners will ever pray.
When Irishmen think, speak and act to usurp an alien authority in the spirit of this admirable petition we shall have reality in Irish politics.